Abdinasir Ahmed Bashir – Cii News – 19 September 2012

Prior to the recent Somali election, a group of politicians including the former president formed a partnership to make sure Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed would be reelected.

Ahmed has since lost the election and has been replaced by Hassen Sheik Mahmood.

The leader of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, Abdirahman Mahmood Farole,  however has been at loggerheads with the previous administration and has threatened to pull out the federal state of Somalia if Sharif was re-elected.

Forming the basis of rocky relationship between Puntland and Mogadishu is the presence of South African mercenaries or ‘guns for for hire’.

In a country where armed conflicts have torn the society apart, the presence of unauthorised armed groups is a destabilising factor and of  great concern as they assist one group over another.

That is why the UN  team monitoring the Somalia and Eritrea arms embargo have labeled Saracen International as obstacle to peace and stability in Somalia in its 2011 report. The reports stated that not only is the company training special forces for Puntland’s president but also shipping tons of heavy weaponry there in violation of the arms embargo.

In a more chilling report this year by the UN monitoring team, Saracen changed its name to Sterling Corporate Services, and more worryingly, the South African government is accused in the report of not doing anything to stop this company of operating from South Africa.

Saracen has so far delivered choppers, speed boats, heavy weaponry including anti-aircraft missiles and sophisticated communication equipments to Puntland.

“The Monitoring Group has identified two of the helicopters as being Aérospatiale Alouette III type 316 B, registered in South Africa under registration ZU-RFC and ZU-RFD. Purchased from the South African Air Force on 7 May 2010 by JA CAMPBELL, South African customs documentation indicates that they had been ‘temporarily exported’ from South Africa to the United Arab Emirates and then observed in the Seychelles on board the former Blackwater escort vessel, the MV Eaton, on 4 March 2011,” the report says.

Previously, Somali media documented that security forces from the President Abdirahman Mahmood’s  office were responsible for abducting or sometimes killing well respected Islamic scholars.

Adding fuel to the explosive situation is the link between Saracen and America’s Blackwater mercenaries who the US hired to operate in Iraq.

One of the main tasks of Saracen was to fight off pirates and Islamist groups with links to Al Shabab based in the Galgala mountainous region near Bosaso, the commercial hub of Puntland. The decision by Puntland to involve Saracen in the fight backfired when Al Shabab joined the local rebels and moved their headquarters and leadership to Galgala.

Al Shabab was furious and agitated by the fact that companies allegedly linked  to Blackwater, or Americans, were involved.

People blame the Puntland administration and Saracen for this military escalation.

Puntland also has disputes with other breakaway states like Somaliland and the newly formed semi-autonomous Khatumo State over the control of territory.

Saracen’s continued stay in Puntland has not helped matters to improve.

South Africa, known for its peacekeeping missions in Africa and peace brokering efforts, now has its reputation at stake. It now stands accused of not only not interfering in the two decade long civil war, but also failing to stop those who are fanning it further from South African soil.


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